Anti-Harassment Policy

Grand Aspirations Anti-Harassment Policy

Intent of policy / Statement on Harassment
The intent of the policy is to lay out clear expectations for national and local staff, participants, and volunteers for creating a safe working environment for everyone involved. This policy is intended to proactively prevent harassment and effectively deal with harassment that does occur. We strongly believe that preventing harassment and addressing it when it does occur is an integral part of our organization’s struggle for collective liberation. While the primary goal of the policy is to create safe working spaces for everyone involved with Grand Aspirations, the policy is also intended to protect Grand Aspirations from liability.

Definition of harassment
Harassment is any behavior which causes distress, feelings of a lack of safety, or physical harm to another person based on their actual or perceived race, religion, age, gender, gender expression or identity, disability, sexual orientation, citizenship status, place of origin, marital status, or familial status. Grand Aspirations, like everything else in the world, has its own flows of power. This policy recognizes harassment which occurs from people with more actual or perceived power in the organization directed at those with less. Additionally, any kind of sexual harassment against anyone, regardless of the identities of the people involved, is covered by this policy. Harassment does not need to have malicious intent; the impacts on the person reporting the harassment must be addressed regardless of the intent. Displays of derogatory or offensive pictures, graffiti, or materials towards people because one of the identities listed above; demeaning remarks, jokes, innuendos about an employee, participant or volunteer; or remarks about an identity group in the presence of any individual, not necessarily a member of the group mentioned, are also forms of harassment.

Harassment is not:
Consensual banter or romantic peer relationships, where the people involved consent to the interaction, are not harassment. Appropriate performance reviews, constructive feedback and critique, counseling, or discipline by a supervisor or manager are not harassment.

Responsibilities of participants and volunteers
All participants and volunteers have the responsibility to treat each other with respect and to refrain from discrimination and harassment. They are encouraged to speak up if they or someone else is being harassed, and are encouraged to report harassment to the appropriate person.

Responsibilities of staff and program leaders
Each program leader and staff person is responsible for fostering a safe working environment, free of harassment. A safe working environment is one where everyone is accepted and allowed to be themselves. No one should be afraid for their physical or mental health in a safe working environment. A safe working environment is not free of all criticism or conflict, but those things are handled with respect. Program leaders and staff must set an example of appropriate behaviour, and must deal with situations of harassment immediately on becoming aware of them, whether or not there has been a complaint. Grand Aspirations and any employees who are complicit in harassment are legally liable for any harassment that occurs even if they were not actually involved in the harassment. A program leader or staff person who does nothing to prevent harassment or to mitigate its effects may find themselves facing consequences or putting Grand Aspirations in legal jeopardy.

Harassment types
Four primary types of Harassment:

  1. Hostile Environment
  2. Retaliatory harassment
  3. Quid pro quo sexual harassment
  4. Sexual Exploitation

1. Hostile Environment: Includes any situation in which there is harassing conduct that is sufficiently severe, pervasive/persistent and patently/objectively offensive that it alters the conditions of education or employment, from both a subjective (the victim’s) and an objective (reasonable person’s) viewpoint. The circumstances to determine whether an environment is “hostile” could include:

  • The frequency of the conduct
  • The nature and severity of the conduct
  • Whether the conduct was physically threatening
  • Whether the conduct was humiliating.
  • The effect of the conduct on the victim’s mental or emotional state;
  • Whether the conduct was directed at more than one person;
  • Whether the conduct arose in the context of other discriminatory conduct
  • Whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with the victim’s work performance
  • Whether the statement is an utterance of an epithet which engenders offense in the listener, or offends by rudeness

2. Retaliatory harassment is any adverse employment or educational action taken
against a person because of the person’s participation in a complaint or investigation of discrimination, assault or harassment.
3. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature; and submission to or rejection of such conduct results in adverse impacts on one’s ability to continue the work with Grand Aspirations one was doing before.
4. Sexual Exploitation occurs when a person takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another for his/her own advantage or benefit, or to benefit or advantage anyone other than the one being exploited, and that behavior does not otherwise constitute one of the other forms of harassment or sexual assault. Examples of sexual exploitation include, but are not limited to:

  • Prostituting another person;
  • Non-consensual video or audio-taping sexual activity;
  • Going beyond the boundaries of consent (e.g., letting your friends hide in the closet to watch you have consensual sex);
  • Engaging in non-consensual viewing of another person or exposing of oneself
  • Posting sexually explicit photos in public or on social media sites

Jurisdiction
Grand Aspirations has the jurisdiction to respond to situations that occur:

  • During any Grand Aspirations programing, including Summer of Solutions programs, national gatherings, and regional gatherings.
    • Even if the perpetrator is not affiliated with Grand Aspirations, program leaders or the Anti-Harassment Committee will assist the victim(s) in making a report to the local civic authorities if they want to.
    • If the victim is not affiliated with Grand Aspirations, the victim or a witness to the harassment can still report the incident. Grand Aspirations values its relationships with local communities and will not have them damaged by harassment from our participants or staff.
  • In the course of any national or local Grand Aspirations work occurring in person, over the phone, or any forms of electronic communication (email, social media websites, Google documents, etc).
  • When the victim and accused are both members of the Grand Aspirations community, even if the alleged harassment takes place outside of any GA-related activity.

There is no limit on the time frame for harassment. Reports can be made at any time. Grand Aspirations may be less able to respond to claims made significantly after an incident has taken place. We may not be able to respond to complaints about people who are no longer a part of the organization.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is an extremely serious issue. Significant personal harm and damage to reputation can come to a party through inappropriate breaches of confidentiality, including harm created by innuendo and gossip. Trust in confidentiality also encourages people to come forward with their complaint.

At the same time, those involved in a complaint have a right to be given enough information so that they are able to respond and to defend their interests. Confidentiality is different from anonymity. An individual complainant that wishes to seek informal or formal resolution must be prepared to be identified to the respondent.

Under this policy, everyone involved in a complaint has a responsibility to ensure confidentiality in all their verbal, written and taped communication, formal and informal, in order to respect the right to fair process for the complainant and respondent.

Anyone can file a breach of confidentiality complaint if they believe that another person has broken confidentiality causing harm to one or both parties.

If victims are looking for completely confidential resources to discuss their harassment, they should talk to a therapist or a spiritual advisor. Grand Aspirations cannot guarantee that no action will be taken to address a report or complaint if there is danger to more members of the Grand Aspirations community in the content of the report or complaint.

The records of the Anti-Harassment Committee will be very strictly managed. Only members of the Committee who are actively working on a complaint process will have access to those records. Online form reports and complaints will be submitted to one person on the team who will be identified at the top of the form. If, for any reason, the complainant does not want their report or complaint going to that person, there will be an alternative person to speak with whose contact information will be listed on the form. Past records will be stored in a locked, physical location to which one member of the committee as access and deleted from online systems.

Reporting Harassment

There are three ways that people experiencing harassment can react through Grand Aspirations: using informal processes, making a report, or making a complaint.

Victims of harassment may use an informal process to respond to harassment directly. The complainant will describe specifically to the respondent what unwelcome behaviours, statements, or materials are making them uncomfortable. The complainant may seek assistance and/or coaching to prepare herself to speak to the respondent. If the complainant is seeking assistance and/or advice from a program leader or staff person, the program leader or staff person may provide coaching, at this point, to facilitate resolution. Even if the behavior is resolved independently, complainants are encouraged to make a report to the Anti-Harassment Committee so that we are aware of and can address in the future the frequency and types of harassment that occur within the organization.

The respondent must be given an opportunity to stop the behavior and offer reparation(s) to the complainant.

Institutional sanctions or punishments are not permitted outcomes of informal resolutions.

The victim may prefer to start with an informal resolution process or to use a formal resolution process. If they choose an informal resolution process, they have the right to go onto a formal resolution process if they are not content with the results of the informal process.

Secondly, Victims of harassment may make a report to a program leader or a member of the Anti-Harassment Committee. A report is a written account of what has occurred that can be made quickly while the experience is fresh in their minds and which they can use later if they choose to file a complaint. Reports can be filed anonymously or with names attached. Reports can be filed by a third party who sees the harassment or who is representing the victim of the harassment. Reports do not require further action on the part of the receiving body. Grand Aspirations STRONGLY encourages victims of harassment to file a report of the harassment even if they do not want the matter pursued further.Additionally, Grand Aspirations will not prosecute violations of other Grand Aspirations policies (such as the Drug and Alcohol Policy) based on self-reports of those violations as part of a harassment report. Evidence from harassment reports will not be included or evaluated in reviews of such violations brought by other parties.

Reports of harassment given to program leaders will be turned over to the Anti-Harassment Committee; the victim can request that names and other identifying information be removed before the Anti-Harassment Committee receives the report. The Anti-Harassment Committee will keep private records of all reports filed for 5 years. If there is anyone on the Anti-Harassment Committee whom the reporter does not want involved in the situation, that person will not have access to the records. Reports may also be filed anonymously using an online form. Additionally, Grand Aspirations reserves the right to pursue a report or complaint of harassment if the information given indicates that the there is a risk to other members of the Grand Aspirations community.

Thirdly, a complaint of harassment is an official written statement given by the victim of harassment (or by a third party on the victim’s behalf with the victim’s consent) that is used as the basis for initiating an investigation by the Anti-Harassment Committee. Complaints require action on the part of the person who receives them. Program Leaders are required to pass them on to the Anti-Harassment Committee and the Anti-Harassment Committee is required to take formal action, most likely in the form of an investigation.

If someone files a complaint, the Anti-Harassment Committee may have to contact other people at a local program or in a national team in order to address the situation. If the complaint is specifically against another individual, that person has a right to respond to the complaint, which means it will have to be shared with them. That person is referred to in the rest of the policy as “the respondent.”

The complainant and the respondent are each permitted to designate a support person. The support person is someone who the complainant or the respondent trusts. They will give advice and support to the individual. The support person’s role is not to present or respond on behalf of either the respondent or complainant. Rather, they may take notes and give advice to the party they are supporting, when asked by that party. Any interviewing or questioning may also be temporarily stopped in order to allow a support person and their party to discuss an issue or question privately. The support person may not be a supervisor of either the complainant or the respondent. If one person is asked to be a support person and declines, the person who asked them may seek out a different support person. Anyone who is asked to be a support person is automatically required to maintain confidentiality, whether or not they end up fulfilling that role.

In the formal process of responding to a complaint, a member or members of the Anti-Harassment Committee will act as investigator to gather all relevant information. If a complainant wants an investigation, the Anti-Harassment Committee is obligated to provide one. The investigator will interview the complainant, the respondent, and any witnesses. All people affiliated with Grand Aspirations have a responsibility to cooperate in an investigation. Complainants and respondents both have the right to be accompanied by their support person to all interviews.

Interviews by the investigator will be conducted in a consistent way for all parties involved in a complaint. If the investigator is not in the same physical location as the complainant, respondent, or witnesses who are being interviewed, they will conduct interviews over the phone, through video chat, or over email. If the investigator is in the same place as one of the complainant or the respondent, the investigator cannot meet with one and not the other in person. When possible, an investigator from a different location will be chosen to ensure consistency. If one of the complainant or respondent does not have access to a certain kind of technology (if one can use video chatting but the other can’t, for example), neither interview will be conducted through that medium. Investigators may record interviews for the purpose of the investigation. Those recordings will be added to the file on the complaint upon the completion of the investigation.

An investigation will involve:

  • getting all pertinent information from the complainant
  • informing the respondent of the details of the complaint and getting their response
  • interviewing any witnesses
  • providing the complainant and the respondent with enough information about the allegations and responses of the other party or of witnesses to allow them to respond
  • determining whether, on a balance of probabilities, the harassment occurred
  • recommending appropriate remedies and penalties.

To preserve the integrity of the reporting process and to avoid further tension and conflict within the group where the harassment occurred, all parties will be informed that they must not speak with anyone, even those also involved in the complaint, about the complaint. To preserve the integrity of the complaint process, everyone involved is required to cooperate with the investigation and maintain the confidential nature of the complaint.

Before a final report is given, the investigator will give copies of a draft report to the complainant and respondent so they can comment on the accuracy and completeness of the facts. The draft report shall not be shared with anyone other than support persons, if any are involved. The investigator will revise any questions of accuracy before finalizing the report.

The investigator will bring the report back to the full Anti-Harassment Committee. One member will abstain from the process in order to be able to respond to a complaint about the process with a level of distance from the conversation. The complainant and the responder will be informed of any action being taken on the report within 30 days of the Committee receiving it.

The rest of the Anti-Harassment Committee, without the investigator or the abstaining member, will make a decision about what action, if any, should be taken. In the case of substantiated complaints, where they are reasonably sure that the harassment did occur as reported, the Committee will decide remedies for the victim and sanctions for the harasser.

Depending on the nature and severity of the harassment, the remedies for a person who
has been harassed may include:

  • an oral or written apology from the respondent
  • restoring lost wages
  • a job or promotion that was denied
  • compensation for any lost employment benefits, such as sick leave
  • compensation for hurt feelings
  • a transfer or a reversal of a transfer, if desired. If one of the two people needs to be transferred, it will be the harasser by default

Depending on the nature and severity of the harassment, sanctions for harassers may
include any of:

  • written reprimand
  • suspension, with or without pay
  • transfer, if it is not reasonable for the people involved to continue working together
  • demotion
  • dismissal

Harassers may also be obliged to attend an anti-harassment training session. Considering
issues of confidentiality, reasonable efforts will be made to support re-integration and
recovery for the team.

Responsibility for making sure that sanctions are carried out will be dependent on the nature of of the sanction. For example, if the person’s pay is being suspended, the Grand Aspirations Accountant will be responsible for stopping payments. If someone is being removed from their position at a national level, the Advisory Council may need to be involved. However, the Anti-Harassment Committee is ultimately accountable for making sure sanctions are carried out.

Unsubstantiated complaints
If there is not enough evidence to support an allegation of harassment, the investigator can not recommend any penalties or remedies. However, the Anti-Harassment Committee will work with the complainant to understand what they are feeling and going through. Even if harassment is not proven, the feelings of everyone involved (complainant and accused) will be taken seriously.

Complaints made in bad faith
In the rare event that the complaint was made in bad faith, that is made deliberately and maliciously filed knowing it had absolutely no basis, the complainant will be subject to the same possible penalties as a harasser. The person unjustly accused of harassment will have their reputation restored, and will be given the benefit of any necessary remedies that would be given in a case of harassment.

Retaliation
Anyone who retaliates in any way against a person who has been involved in a harassment complaint will be subject to the same possible penalties as a harasser.

Appeals
Appeals to the decision of the Anti-Harassment Committee are accepted on the basis of procedural errors, bias on the part of a member of the Committee, new information that was not previously available, or claims that the decision was arbitrary or not fully reviewed. Appeals will be heard by the member of the Committee who abstained at the earlier phase of the process. Appeal decisions are final.

Recourse for changing the policy
This policy is being put into effect for the summer of 2011. There will be a process to amend and update it during the 2011-2012 year. Everyone in the organization will be invited to give feedback about the policy and their awareness of it, which will give the Anti-Harassment Committee information both about the policy itself and how widely it has been shared. These responses may be given anonymously, although anyone who is interested in joining the process or giving further feedback will be welcome to do so.

Based on the Macalester College anti-harassment policy and procedure: http://www.macalester.edu/mchc/harrassment%20policy%20and%20procedure.pdf
and the Sistering Anti-Oppression plan:
https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0BwYaKhevTnzpYmNhNDYzMTAtN2EyYS00NDBjLWIzYmItZTBmOTU0MTA1ZjVm&hl=en